II Sam. 18:1-19:8
David had many followers. As he mustered his army, he placed Joab over a third; Abishai over another third; Ittai was captain over the other third of his soldiers and he, as their king would lead the complete army. The people persuaded him to remain in the city out of harm’s way. In his love for his son, David commanded his captains to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.”
The battle between David’s army and the army of Israel was fierce. Twenty thousand men were slaughtered that day as Absalom’s army was overthrown. It has been said that Absalom’s massive hair locks were caught in the branches of a giant tree as his mule ran from beneath him leaving him hanging. However, Scripture states that, “his head caught in the terebinth” tree. Joab was a ruthless man. He ignored David’s plea for the safety of his son. As Absalom swung helplessly from the tree, Joab thrust three spears through his heart and removed another enemy from the king. Absalom was dead. The battle was ended. With Absalom having no surviving son, David had no other obstacles to his resuming as king of Israel.
Upon being notified that there was good news, David did not ask about any details of the battle. His main concern was, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
With the news of Absalom’s death, one of the saddest laments of the entire Bible is cried. “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” Perhaps as the father wept for his son, he realized the many lost opportunities that had been before him to bring his child up in the way that he should go.
The people went home with a feeling of defeat in the face of their victory because of their king’s lament over their defeated enemy. Joab confronted David over his actions and brought him back to reality.